How To Make Broccoli and Cauliflower Bad For You (and utterly delicious)

This is a recipe from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, a cookbook I’ve long dismissed as too complex, too fussy, too–well–not me. Flipping through it now, the recipes are long-winded, they go on for pages, and the pictures are too few and far between. And yet this is a cookbook that has something to say–I can’t deny that–and every now and then I pick it up and hope that I may stumble across something that will win me over. Tonight was such a night.

It’s a super simple Zuni recipe (“Pasta with Spicy Broccoli and Cauliflower”), a recipe that spans only two pages, and yet now I will attempt to reduce it to just a few short paragraphs.

1. Take cauliflower and broccoli and slice it into 1/8th-inch slices (about as much as you think can fit in your saute pan). Heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil in the pan on medium heat and then add the cauliflower and broccoli, leaving behind the stray bits for later:

Cook until the cauliflower and broccoli are brown on the edges. Don’t move them around!!

2. Once browned, add salt (a light sprinkling) and more oil (this is why it’s not so healthy, I added a lot of oil) and then the rest of the cauliflower bits from the board. Then add 1 Tbs capers and toss around. Then let cook until the edges begin to brown again.

3. Drop 1 pound (or so) of penne or fussili (or any pasta, really) into a pot of boiling salted water. Try to time it so the pasta will be done when the sauce is done.

4. When the broccoli and cauliflower has shrunken by 1/3rd, reduce the heat, add more oil, and then add chopped anchovy (6 filets), chopped garlic (six cloves), 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, and 4 to 8 pinches red chili flakes. This is a highly unusual step–adding the garlic and flavorings AFTER the vegetables have cooked–but it makes the flavors way more pungent. Stir them around and cook for a few more minutes.


5. Taste! Is it tasty? Judy Rodgers says, “Every flavor should be clamoring for dominance.” (She also has you add olives and toasted bread crumbs, but I didn’t have any on hand).

6. When the pasta is done, toss it with the sauce and look:


You’ve made broccoli and cauliflower oily, unhealthy and terrifically delicious! It’s a great pasta dish. You can add cheese if you want, but I didn’t have any. And so, the Zuni Cafe cookbook gets a pat on the back tonight. Well done, Zuni. Well done.

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15 thoughts on “How To Make Broccoli and Cauliflower Bad For You (and utterly delicious)”

  1. And were you a good boy? Did you eat all your vegetables?

    Who said bad can’t be good…or is it good can’t be bad… Whatever, this is good!

  2. I have to disagree. This is quite a healthy dish. Olive oil is wonderful for your body…even in large is just highly caloric. The vegetables speak for eat up!

  3. I’m with Izzy’s Mama. We make this recipe often—in fact, it’s on the menu this week (though I’m partial to all cauliflower, no broccoli). I tend to use less olive oil, more veggies, and whole wheat pasta—the results are outstanding and (arguably) healthy.

  4. Agree, overall, with previous two comments – this is not bad for you at all. Not sure I’d agree that “large” amounts of olive oil are exactly healthy – it’s still got a lot of calories – but 1/4 cup for several people is not that much.

    So enjoy!

  5. ‘Looks delicioso! It was amusing how you started the blog acting like you were transforming broccoli and cauliflower into some fat-laden meal. I was expecting you to toss them with beaten egg and freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and then deep-fry them, which is what I saw Giada do one time. Then she tossed them in a salad, of course, and didn’t eat each frydaddy dipped in melted cheese as I did once. Mmmm…

  6. I used to think Judy was a bit too pedantic, but now I love that book. Everything is so well thought out and thoroughly explained. It is much better than a cookbook that is too vague. The ricotta gnocchi in there is terrific!

  7. Leave out the fennel. You don’t need it and it subtracts from the other flavors. But otherwise it looks great.

  8. I’m with Mercedes. Judy’s cookbook is probably the most useful one I have. I just ignore the stories if I’m in a hurry. I just made the Ricotta gnocci for the first time last night, and I did notice that she is oddly fearmongering in that particular recipe – a trait she avoids in most other instances. I love her Chicken Bouillabaise. Give it a try, its really easy and it smells so good.

  9. Actually Mischiefdish- I quite like it with “fennel seed” flavor- it’s subtle (I substituted pounded caraway seeds for it the time I made it because I had no fennel on hand). The recipe tells you to grind them up- I can imagine that the whole seeds might be distracting texturally.

  10. Sounds tasty….

    Agree with izzy’s mama that this is good fat, but if you’re REALLY worried about the fat, how’s this for an alternative?

    Toss the broc/cauli with some s&p, EVOO (say, 2-3 tablespoons) and minced garlic, and roast it all up at 400 degrees for ~20-30 minutes. You can eat the veg roasted as is, or toss it with a little more EVOO and pasta.

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